Cultural Differences

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Cultural Differences

Cultural Differences

People sometimes see the same situation in different ways due to cultural differences. Social customs and cultural differences can have a big impact in the workplace, whether it is in a team or interacting with clients.

These are some possible cultural differences to be aware of:

  1. Hand signals: A good example of this is the hand signal in the U.S. for OK. This gesture means money to the Japanese, means zero to the French, and is a pretty big insult to Russians, Turks or Brazilians.
  2. Personal space: Americans typically require more distance between them and the person they are speaking with.
  3. Calendar dates: In the U.S. dates are written as month/date/year, whereas in Europe they are written as day/month/year.
  4. Holidays: Different countries and different religions celebrate different holidays. Most companies try to work around the holiday needs of employees or clients.
  5. Context: Cultures with low context prefer more up front, explicit conversations. High context cultures typically expect more indirect communication. These are easily misunderstood cultural differences that can cause issues in the workplace.
  6. Multi-tasking: Certain cultures prefer to only do one task at a time and focus on one thing without interruptions. American culture typically embraces more multi-tasking. Managers of different cultures must be aware of these differences and harness the benefits of both types of people.

Although no individual fits into any one box or description perfectly, there are customs associated with different cultures. No one should be judged or discriminated against because of these differences. Increasing awareness of cultural differences can make for better working relationships and a more successful team.


This tutorial is based on Webucator's Diversity Training for Employees and Managers Course. We also offer many other HR Training courses. Sign up today to get help from a live instructor.